NFL sets opt-out deadline, will fine players $50K for COVID-19 test refusal

Aug. 4 (UPI) — The NFL has imposed a Thursday deadline for players who want to opt out of the 2020 NFL season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The league also will discipline players for “high-risk COVID-19 conduct.”

Players can be fined $50,000 for refusing to submit to a coronavirus test. They also can be fined for refusing to wear masks, personal protective equipment or a tracking device, or failing to maintain social distancing standards during team travel.

The NFL players union and team owners finalized a pact Monday night to settle issues related to football‘s collective bargaining agreement. The pact came after dozens of players said they won’t play next season due to concern for themselves and their families due to the pandemic.

Nearly 50 NFL players have opted out of the 2020 season in the last two weeks as teams prepare for the season, which begins Sept. 10 with Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans.

Players have until 4 p.m. EDT Thursday to inform the league if they plan to opt out in 2020. They can opt out later only if they receive a new diagnosis that they have a high-risk condition or if a family member dies or is hospitalized because of COVID-19 or a related condition.

Players deemed high-risk will earn a $350,000 stipend for 2020 if they opt out of the season. Players who voluntarily opt out and who have earned a credited season in the prior league year or were drafted in 2020 are eligible for a $150,000 opt-out stipend.

Other players who opt to play and don’t follow the league’s coronavirus protocol will be fined or suspended for violations. The league has specified various activities and events for players to avoid amid the pandemic.

NFL COVID-19 misconduct

Part of the labor agreement adjustments involve specific penalties for players who go to bars, clubs or house parties that include more than 10 people attending and going to those without personal protective equipment.

They also can’t attend indoor music concerts or entertainment events or professional sporting events — other than their games or team’s events — unless they are seated in a section with no more than 10 people and wear personal protective equipment.

Church services are not listed among off-limit activities.

Players will not receive written warnings for a first violation, which includes the hefty fine for test refusal.

The agreement also stipulates that if a player is diagnosed with COVID-19 or quarantined the night before or on the day of game, an NFL team can promote a practice squad player to the active roster up until 90 minutes before kickoff.

The players union has reported 107 total player positives for COVID-19 this off-season, through July 28. The union reported 21 player positives since players began to report to training camp last week.

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